Mexican sewage spill much worse than original estimates, congressman says

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IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. - A large sewage spill south of the international border that fouled the Tijuana River Valley and nearby beaches in southern San Diego County last month was much bigger than originally estimated, Rep. Scott Peters said Monday. and council members from Imperial Beach and Coronado toured Tijuana River Valley Monday asking for investigation into last month's massive sewage spill.

Peters and council members from Imperial Beach and Coronado toured the affected area Monday asking for an investigation into last month's massive sewage spill. An environmental group announced last Thursday that federal officials in the U.S. and Mexico agreed to probe the circumstances of the sewage release.

An environmental group announced last Thursday that federal officials in the U.S. and Mexico agreed to probe the circumstances of the sewage release. Hours ahead of a news conference in which local political leaders and environmental organizations were to push for the investigation, officials with the International Boundary and Water Commission said they would look into the matter, according to the group Wildcoast.

The investigation by the commission's binational Water Quality Work Group will determine when the spill occurred, quantify how much sewage spilled, specify the characteristics of the sewage and identify problems in procedures to notify the commission and the public, Wildcoast said.

Initially, U.S. officials estimated that more than 143 million gallons of raw sewage flowed from Mexico into the Pacific Ocean, causing a widespread stench that resulted in numerous complaints. But now, according to Congressman Scott Peters' office, the estimate is well in excess of 200 million gallons of raw sewage.

"It’s beyond frustrating cause this isn’t how someone should live, we shouldn’t be living with a backyard full of sewage and no one has taken issue, this should be a national issue a national disaster," said Imperial Beach resident Molly Goforth.

San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, who represents Otay Mesa and San Ysidro, said the incident put the health of his constituents at risk. Alvarez heads the City Council's Environment Committee.

As FOX 5 first reported more than two weeks ago, Mexican officials say the discharge resulted from a project to repair a sewer pipe and holding tank at the confluence of the Alamar and Tijuana rivers, south of the international border.

U.S. officials weren't notified about the work, however.